The ultimate heresy?

Perhaps my time in the New Kadampa Tradition was all a complete waste of time? Sometimes this question comes up, leading to a complex mix of thoughts and feelings within my mind. Sometimes that mix used to be too disturbing for me to cope with and I would shut all the turbulence down and distract myself toward something else. But now the turbulence has subsided and I can look at the question and its subsequent though-train more calmly and with more interest. In one sense, yes, my time in the New Kadampa Tradition was a  waste of time to the degree that I consciously or subconsciously developed an over-reliance upon the NKT as being the organisation that would lead me to enlightenment. Ironically, the more I practised NKT Dharma the more I realised the truth of what Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was saying, albeit often only the lines, that only my own inner Spiritual Guide could lead me to enlightenment, that only the wisdom inside my own mind could liberate me from suffering. As Geshe-la himself says: “if you realise your own mind you will become a Buddha; do not look for Buddhahood elsewhere”. And only I can do the actual realising of my own mind; the responsibility is totally mine,a nd my reliance upon Geshe-la is a reliance only on sincerely meditating and contemplating upon the pointers he gives, pointers which I still have to understand within the terms of my own experience, using my own intuition, reasoning, interpretations, etc. In that sense, none of my time within the NKT was wasted, as just putting Geshe-la’s advice into practice gradually empowered me to take ever more responsibility for my own spiritual progress.

But the NKT, an organisation Geshe-la created, and sanctioned, is what it is: an organisation. And arguably, spirituality cannot be ‘organised’, and no organisation can develop a definitive way for a teacher’s, any teacher’s, guidance to be understood and followed, precisely because no organisation can take on the responsibility of an individual to work out his or her own ‘salvation’. Organisations inevitably develop their own dynamic, their own purposes and agendas, which eventually deviate either partially or wholly from the spiritual goals of the individuals who owe some degree of allegiance to the organisation, and then those individuals have to cope with varying degrees of cognitive dissonance as they struggle to combine their spiritual path with the often purely worldly demands of an organisation bent only upon perpetuating and promoting itself regardless of what damage it may do to the integrity of the teacher and the teachings the organisation ostensibly supports. Krishnamurti understood this only too well, and he had the courage to dissolve the very organisation that was set up to promote his teachings and to gather disciples for him. Just read his dissolution speech! Now that is integrity! Perhaps Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, for the sake of  his own teachings and the wisdom they contain, should dissolve the NKT and just tell all his disciples to get on with practising the Dharma without being diverted by the need to satisfy the demands of any ‘Dharma organisation’? Now there’s a thought!  Enough to make an NKT groupie choke on his breakfast muesli! Just as well a ‘heretic’ like me does not feel the need to apply for re-entry into the ranks of the ‘pure ones’…

10 Comments on “The ultimate heresy?”

  1. Jon says:

    excellent thanks Andy, 🙂

  2. DharmaForum says:

    I note that the wonderful speech by Krishnamirti was brought to us by “copyright the Krishnamirti Foundation of America. All rights reserved.”

  3. Carol McQuire says:

    I would note that where this analysis falls down is that Gyatso IS the NKT, in his own words. The expansion, property development, the organisation of TTP and the present 6 month ‘training’ to be a Resident Teacher, etc, etc, are all ideas coming from Gyatso. It is easier, on leaving the NKT, to feel that ‘Geshe-la’ isn’t the NKT. But Gyatso himself states that he ‘is’ the NKT!! I feel the only way forwards is to see the ‘spiritual guide’ as an aspect of the Dharma and not vice versa – it is the Dharma that moves us spiritually and that is not copyrighted by the NKT or by Gyatso! It cannot be! And until people experience for themselves what genuine spiritual advice is, they can’t understand how Gyatso has been so fraudulent in a personal sense towards his students. Other teachers meet their students frequently in person…Gyatso goes where property is being bought, without fail, to check it all out. If this expansion wasn’t his personal concern then why would he do this? Before the contracts are made….

    • andydharma says:

      Thanks for your comment, Carol. Some excellent points to consider. I love your distinction between the ‘spiritual guide’ as an aspect of the Dharma as one experiences it personally/spiritually through one’s own practice and the ‘spiritual guide’ as portrayed by either the external guru himself/herself and/or the organisation set up by/set up for the external guru. Very important distinction to make for oneself even if one’s spiritual guide can’t make it for himself/herself.

  4. Kelsang Pagpa says:

    I just wanted to say that the New Kadampa Tradition is a tradition, not an organisation. It’s a special presentation of the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, Venerable Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa as presented by Geshe Kelsang in his books. The organisation, such that it is, exists only to provide those teachings to as great an audience as possible, solely with the intention of bringing samsara to an end.

    All the best with your new direction Andy.

    • andydharma says:

      Many thanks for your comment, Pagpa, and for your kind words about my future. If the NKT is helping you to bring your samsara to an end, then that’s great and I’m very happy for you. I would, however, respectfully disagree with you that the distinction between a ‘tradition’ and an ‘organisation’ is a useful or valid one. Anyway, in my opinion, it is not a tradition/organisation that brings samsara to an end. It is what one does with one’s own mind that brings one’s own samsara to an end; whether a tradition/organisation helps/hinders one’s intention to end samsara depends on the relationship between oneself and the tradition/organisation. Unfortunately, for me, and for many other ex-NKT people, that relationship broke down despite our not wanting it to, and the NKT tradition/organisation ended up hindering our attempts to end our own samsara, although Geshe Kelsang’s actual Dharma teachings were always of great benefit to me personally. I can separate the content of Geshe Kelsang’s teachings from the tradition/organisation he founded, and his teachings remain valuable to me although his tradition/organisation now has, in the eyes of many, serious flaws in its governance that act as obstacles to the dissemination of his own teachings.

      • niall says:

        If it hindered you it was because something needed to be learnt. As soon as you believe the organisation is corrupt it is over for you and you must move on. It is not necessarily a hindrance for others at their stage.

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